La Grande Illusion (1937)
Directed by Jean Renoir
Starring: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim
When Lieutenant Maréchal (Gabin) and Captain Boeldieu (Fresnay) are shot down during World War I they’re quickly captured and sent to a German P.O.W. camp. After repeated escape attempts fail, the pair find themselves in a camp run by Captain von Rauffenstein (von Stroheim), a career soldier and a gentleman. Captain Boeldieu and Captain von Rauffenstein knew one another in more peaceful times. Now they’re bonding over old times while the rest of the captives continue to seek for a way out. Eventually their friendship could be tested by the sense of duty the two men share.
This is an incredible movie from a unique period of French film making. Director Jean Renoir used his unique vision to create a wonderful film. The story was written through the combined effort of Renoir and Charles Spaak. Together they created a script filled with great dialogue and unique moments.Their cast is filled with talented actors including Jean Gabin (Port of Shadows), Dita Parlo (Under Secret Orders), Pierre Fresnay (Dieu a besoin des hommes), and Erich von Stroheim (Sunset Blvd.).
The acting in this movie is really nicely done from all of the stars. Despite focusing on the main characters, the movie introduces a number of likeable people along the way. This really keeps the story interesting and kept me invested in the lives of all the people involved.
The movie also takes advantage of nicely built sets and natural landscape to bring the story to life. Despite being a black and white movie Renoir is able to make the world seem almost colorful. The camera work and lighting are wonderful and help to give a texture and a depth to the movie that bring it to a higher level.
This is a powerful movie with an incredible story. Renoir does an awesome job with all aspects of the film. If you’re a fan of foreign films this is a must-see. I’d also recommend this to anyone who likes films like The Great Escape. I give this one 5 our of 5 stars.